Dan Clark: These Songs May Contain Jokes

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Dan Clark is more popular than I – and presumably BBC Three commissioners – thought. Brighton’s Komedia is full of fans of his now axed sitcom How Not to Live Your Life, who all prove their devotion by yelling out suggestions in a segment of the tour show dedicated to songs from the telly.

For the few who haven’t seen it, he explains his TV character, Don Danbury, as a ‘loveable cock’. His stand-up persona is a lot less cockettish, but eminently likable; a trait that elevates his workmanlike comedy – all half-arsed cynicism on very familiar premises delivered with measured, unpassioned tones – into an entertaining night.

However, it’s the music that does most of that work. Clark toured last year with a stand-up show with songs as interludes, but here has advisedly thrown a full band at proceedings. They rock, all right, and fill the room with a feelgood energy far more exciting than the material. If the gags lack soul, this three-piece, fleetingly referred to as The Difficult Three, don’t.

They might like to be They Might Be Giants, but the lyrics are generally not quirky enough to place themselves in the finest company, with tracks about Simon Cowell possibly being gay or about how they want to kill Justin Bieber not high on inspiration, however well-executed.

With similarly limited horizons, Clark’s between-song banter cover American stars thanking God for their award wins, about how when he was a lad he didn’t have the internet and had to find porn in a discarded magazine in the woods, or about the embarrassment of using public toilets, part of a strong scatalogical thread throughout the night.

These are all go-to topics for so many comic newbies, but veterans such as himself should have found more distinctive fare by now. He messes up a gag about MySpace being passe with the crucial error of calling it Facebook by mistake – but we figure it out, since it’s such a well-known idea. But the gag’s a bit rich, since most of his premises far predate that near-defunct media.

His metrosexual, media lifestyle will not exactly resonate around the country, either, although it’s fine in cosmopolitan Brighton. He talks about googling attractive actresses from adverts to see if they have any mutual Facebook friends – likely in the Groucho Club, but probably not if you’re an Oldham minicab driver. Still, that section has a nice twist to deliver the chuckles.

Clark doesn’t have a particularly strong comic personality, but nonetheless has the charisma to rally the crowd. Combine that with the band, and the evening pulsates with life.

The best songs also demonstrate a flick more originality than the average; the beautiful rhythms of a Greek doctor's name are mined for all they are worth, and an R&B number cleverly morphs into a sex education lesson, making the facts of life funky. Call-and-response and audience clapalongs are joyfully entered into, spreading a party spirit that reaches a climax with Clark’s encore: a straight cover of Livin On A Prayer.

The upshot is that it’s impossible to dislike this upbeat show, but the writing needs a lot more inspiration if Clark is to claw his way into the upper leagues of musical comedians.

Review date: 2 Nov 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Komedia

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